Mississippi and the Lost Cause Lesson Plan

Read the Article:
Meredith Kent and Kari Baker

Curricular Connections

Mississippi State Standards

7th Grade Compacted

7C.13 | U.S. History Analyze the Reconstruction efforts in the post-Civil War United States. 2. Analyze southern resistance to Reconstruction reforms (e.g., Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, Ku Klux Klan, etc.). 

US History: Exploration through Reconstruction (1877)

8.10 Analyze the Reconstruction efforts in the post-Civil War United States. 2. Analyze southern resistance to Reconstruction reforms (e.g., Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, Ku Klux Klan, etc.).

Mississippi Studies

MS.6 Analyze the role of Mississippi during the Civil War and evaluate the effects of Reconstruction in the state. 

US History: 1877 to Present 

USH 1 | Westward Expansion and the New South Trace how economic developments and the westward movement impacted regional differences and democracy in the post-Reconstruction era. 

African American Studies

AAS.4 Evaluate the roles of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. 3. Analyze the effects of Reconstruction on the legal, political, social, cultural, educational, and economic life of freedmen. 4. Assess the successes and failures of Reconstruction as they relate to African Americans (e.g., forty acres and a mule, voting, Clinton Massacre, etc.). 

Problems in American Democracy

PAD.6 Analyze the effectiveness of Reconstruction policies in the United States following the Civil War. 3. Assess efforts by former Confederate states to disenfranchise black voters during the late 1800s including the use of poll taxes and literacy tests. 4. Assess economic and cultural conditions in the North that impacted Reconstruction policies. 



https://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/issue/cotton-and-the-civil-war Cotton and the Civil War
https://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/issue/the-road-to-war-1846-1860 The Road to War
https://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/issue/reconstruction-in-mississippi-1865-1876 Reconstruction in Mississippi
https://mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/issue/first-black-legislators-mississippi The First Black Legislators in Mississippi
https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/overviews/myths-and-representations/ Myths and Representations




Bold print indicates history-specific content.
1. Vindicate: to clear someone of blame or suspicion.  
2. Ideology: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture 
3. Benign: having no significant effect 
4. Paternal: received or inherited from one's male parent 
5. Lynching: to put to death by mob action without legal approval or permission 
6. Ordinance of Secession (Mississippi): Mississippi was the second state to secede from the United States on January 9, 1861, and one of the states to declare the formation of the Confederacy on February 8, 1861. The state's declaration of secession provides one of the clearest connections between secession and slavery. 
7. Illustrious: notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions 
8. Propagated: to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area 
9. Sanguinary: attended by bloodshed 
10. Rectitude: the quality or state of being correct in judgment or procedure 
11. United Daughters of the Confederacy: American neo-Confederate hereditary association for female descendants of Confederate Civil War soldiers engaging in the commemoration of these ancestors and the funding of monuments to them. 
12. Codified: arranged according to a code or system 
13. Brutish: resembling, befitting, or typical of a brute or beast 
14. Degenerate: having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type 
15. Marauders: one who roams from place to place making attacks and raids in search of plunder 
16. Iteration: a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result 
Vocabulary Activity: Word Personalities
Place students in pairs and give each pair one vocabulary word. Each pair should create a Twitter profile and news feed for their word. The pairs should then share the definition and Twitter information with the class.


Article Introduction

After the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, many Southerners desired to reconstruct the narrative of their succession—feeling the need to justify their disloyalty to their country, the devastation of their land, and the death of their people. As a result of this attempt to reinterpret history, the Lost Cause ideology was created to frame the Confederate cause in a positive light. Some of the more prominent myths that advocates of the Lost Cause worked to create were:
  • The Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery.
  • Robert E. Lee detested slavery.
  • Enslavement was not brutal.
  • The North only won because of their resources.
  • Removing Confederate memorials erases history.
None of these myths were true. “Mississippi and the Lost Cause” by Michael J. Goleman goes further into the Lost Cause ideology and the implications of this harmful portrayal of history. In the attached article, Goleman provides evidence against the Lost Cause and examples of the way that the Lost Cause pervades the present-day United States. By understanding Goleman’s article and the importance of acknowledging the false mythology of the Lost Cause, we can better grasp how our past has shaped our current society by accurately studying the past and the institutions implemented to maintain White supremacy.



  1. What are the myths of the Lost Cause? 
  2. How did Lost Cause writers portray slavery, secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction? 
  3. Aside from historical writing influenced to support the Lost Cause, how else was the Lost Cause ideology spread? 
  4. Who were the leaders in the spread of the Lost Cause? 
  5. How do we know that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War? 
  6. Why is the Lost Cause mythology false and harmful?
Possible Student Answers:
1. The myths of the Lost Cause are that the Civil War was about state’s rights, not enslavement; enslaved people were loyal to their masters; the practice of slavery would have ended soon after the war anyway; the North won because of greater resources; Robert E. Lee was a great leader who opposed enslavement.
2. “Described slavery as a benign paternal institution”; “focused on political disputed over state’s rights-ignoring the fact the rights in question concerned slavery”; praised confederate soldiers; criticized reconstruction; worked to oppress the Black population during and after Reconstruction.
3. The Lost Cause ideology was spread through monument building to memorialize Confederate heroes, films, parades, events, etc.
4. Jefferson Davis; the Daughters of The Confederacy; White Southerners; etc.
5. The Mississippi Ordinance of Secession (January 1861) says, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world”, and Alexander Stephens, Confederate vice president, identified slavery as “the immediate cause” of the Civil War. – These Confederate figures and texts have explicitly said that their interest in the war was founded in the continuance of the institution of slavery. We can use this historical evidence to better understand the true interests of the people who lived during the Civil War era.
6. By reckoning with the false ideology of the Lost Cause, we can better understand American history, and the brutality of the system of enslavement and its enduring legacy. We can learn how our past has shaped our society by accurately studying the past and the institutions to preserve the status quo.